The NFL had its eyes locked on the first full day of preseason football with Saturday's jam-packed slate of games featuring exciting matchups. Many uneasy fans had their eyes laser-focused on the Miami Dolphins vs. Chicago Bears game that was broadcasted prior to the Denver Broncos' game.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields showed significant potential completing 70 percent of his throws including his first touchdown. The former Ohio State QB, who was available for the taking in the first round for Broncos' GM George Paton, also rushed for 33 yards and an additional score. It was an impressive showing, to say the least, making many people ponder whether Denver landed the right prospect.
How would Paton’s No. 9 overall selection perform in a limited role in his first NFL (preseason) game?
Rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain answered that question with a 30-yard pick-six against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday afternoon. On a critical 3rd-&-short, Minnesota backup QB Jake Browning tried to connect with wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette on a comeback route. Instead, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Surtian jumped the route, scoring his first touchdown on his first interception, making his first highlighted play that went viral on social media and around the NFL.
Prior to his pick-six, Surtain showcased his heightened awareness by breaking up a pass on a previous third down. Surtain, the son of former Pro Bowl corner Patrick Surtain, has impressed veteran teammates and coaches alike throughout the duration of training camp.
“He played well, obviously, I expect a lot out of him,” head coach Vic Fangio said post-game. “We didn’t play him inside at all. I wanted him to just play one position today, get back to that. They didn't play their starting quarterback. That was one big advantage for us. We played our two starting quarterbacks. They didn't. But still, you've got to go out there and make the plays, and he did it."
The 21-year-old Surtain has been extremely versatile in Fangio’s defensive secondary which is now filled to the brim with talent. Surtain has seen reps on both the perimeter and in the slot, proving his worth as not only a defensive back, but as a football player.
The Florida native has an innate ability to read receivers and quarterbacks alike. While this is more than a genetic blessing, Surtain’s meticulous preparation and study habits are what have largely led to his success.
“I felt it coming,” Surtain told the team website on Saturday. “They ran the same route concept the drive before, so I was expecting it. I just made a play on the ball."
Although Surtain’s debut was a homerun success and should leave fans excited, context still matters. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, along with Pro Bowl WR Justin Jefferson, were just two of many Minnesota starters that didn’t suit up.
This game also came off the heels of two lengthy joint practices between both squads. Surtain was previously seen locking down Vikings' wideouts on multiple days after leaked videos surfaced from Minnesota fans.
The Broncos ended up smashing the Vikings 33-6 and will head home to Denver where they’ll practice for a week before taking to the road once again to battle the Seattle Seahawks. For Surtain to continue his success, he needs to keep doing what he’s doing and that’s being himself.
For many other rookies, it’d be hard to continually be compared to a potential franchise QB that should’ve been drafted to Denver instead of you, in the eyes of many fans. But Surtain has always known his quality and soon, the rest of the league will too.
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